After some silence

After some silence and a private change of direction, please find page one of a new academic paper looking investigating incompleteness through the lens of Kafka’s The Castle and John Portman’s ‘marts’ in downtown Atlanta.

The desire for continuity and completeness of both physical and interpretive landscapes is a conscious choice made by a person. It is not the voracious yet blind devouring of the consumer, a grossly quantitative sequencing of objects and ideas, but the desire to pass through, or project lines through objects and ideas as a qualitative experience in which all elements come together progressively to form a world view and a relational network that trails the completist invisibly. These transgressions or penetrations involve a clean movement, a passing through, as through a shaft or tunnel for the maintenance of clearance around the path, for the perpetuation of distance, however minute, through which all trajectories are possible in a finely branching spine of tangential inquiries, each hollowed out and panoramically observant. This is penetration through the city, the continuity of the walking surface and the sometimes elusive yet wholly personal totality of the public way. This is movement through a text, an infinitely reducible series of interpretational chambers. This is life amongst a landscape of objects, the continuity of the urban surface and the subjective interpretational minutiae of naming, language, and memory. This is not the envelopment of consumption, in which the consumer is in fact consumed, but the construction of all things into the continuously deferring desire of asymptotic distance, where they can remain distinct, in place, yet locked into the trailing web of the completist’s penetrations. Inherent within these two opposing pursuits of consumption and inclusion is a desire for completion, an obsessive drive for a perceived totality. This perception is derived from the reading of a system that is assumed to be complete or continuous, such as ‘the city’ or a novel, and the desire to consume or include it in totality.

Although incompleteness, as the status of an object, is in essence a transferral of duty, there are many ways that this movement is announced and facilitated. Two divergent modes of transferral are into or through continuing mental processes and peripheral action or through continued physical action. The incomplete state that invites physical action upon it is a situation of temporal change in which the configuration and structure of the construct is in continuous flux, whether toward a predetermined terminal state, such as the majestic, mountain-sized sculpture in the round of Crazy Horse in the Black Hills of South Dakota, whose completion necessitates a transfer of labor through the generations due to its scope, or the potentially infinite composition of an ‘exquisite corpse’ text, in which the status of completion depends on how long the participants remain interested or at what point in that duration the piece is read. Alternately, as the focus of this study, there are conditions for whom incompleteness is the terminal state. These can only be completed externally, leaving no physical trace, either through mental processes, such as the riddle or the rhetorical device, or through attempted and repulsed physical interactions which continue to leave the object mute, distant, and untouched, such as the art object. More explicitly, this study will focus on the frustration and inspiration found in intra-systemic incompleteness, those points in complete systems which, as objects or moments, remain impenetrable and exclusionary.

A particularly revealing investigation of this issue is the plight of ‘K.,’ the ‘land surveyor’ of Franz Kafka’s unfinished novel The Castle. Although the incompleteness of the novel itself provides useful analogues for the status of closure and resolution with exclusionary systems and constructs, it is the very system and construct in question that will reveal the most in this inquiry, the bureaucracy and physicality of the castle respectively. The castle stands as an intra-systemic solid within the text which is impenetrable to the reader and to K., both of whom consequently fail at their tasks of assimilating the castle into their reading and ‘surveying’ the relationship of the castle to the village. The narrative of this quest and failure and the positive changes that they affect in K. will serve to structure the argument of this investigation.

Critical Response:

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